Teaching Character: Creativity

Posted on Mar 28, 2021 by 10 Comments

I was born to the MacGyver of the art world. Send my mother out with 2 toothpicks, a jar of glue and a paintbrush and she will make the equivalent of Walmart to hang on your wall. She will have enlisted caterpillars to spin silk and then weave it into canvas. She will have crushed rocks to make pigment and then mixed it with water from a freshly dug well.

In short, she will have created a piece of art that is effortlessly amazing it will brighten the wall above your couch. So my mom would tell you that teaching creativity to a child is effortless. A no brainer. Anyone can do it.

And in a sense, she’d be right. Because kids come to us more creative than we ever hope to be as adults. More open. More malleable. All we need to do is get out of the way.

Creating Reality

Take this story by Sir Ken Robinson about his son who, at 4, played Joseph in his school’s Nativity play. When the 3 kings brought their gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - each child presented the gift to Joseph. “I bring you gold,” the first king says. “I bring you myrrh,” says the second. And the third…”Frank sent this.”

He he he…Frank sent this.

See, children create their own realities every day. It’s as if they don’t know a wrong answer. They barrel through, even if they have to make stuff up. This reminds me of Julie, my grade-school friend, telling me her dad worked at the Pelican Court.

We lived in Louisiana at the time; of course there’d be a court full of pelicans! Duh. It’s the state bird. It made a lot more sense than ‘appellate’ to a young mind. And so visual - all those birds lined up making decisions!

Taking Chances

Though, to be clear, creativity doesn’t equal being wrong. But. In order to be creative, a person needs to not fear being wrong, or failing, or doing something different. The taking of the chance is the creativity steam propelling you forward.

And children take chances every day. Just learning language - they start out babababababa. Eventually they get to ‘ball.’ And yet, as they grow, we correct them, reign them in, teach them - and rightly so - the ‘right’ way to speak, to walk, to think.

Only, at what cost? Do we squander our children’s talents? (As Sir Ken Robinson, in his TED talk on creativity, asks.) Hmm.


Fostering Creativity

Of course, one route to teaching creativity is being creative. But, what if you aren’t an art MacGyver yourself? Look elsewhere for role models.

Museums are a wonderful place to start. Yes, they can be intimidating, but they are packed full of useful things. And I’m not talking about the art on the walls!

Take the Modern Museum of Art, for example. They have a ‘Looking Together‘ guide that is really helpful to parents of children of any age on how to approach looking at and experiencing art. And you don’t need to know a thing about art! It can also be interpreted for the natural world - out there in the woods, even a parking lot.

Museums too high-brow for you? Then try this: let your kids get bored. Take their stimulus away and see what they come up with. Best to do this outside because the last thing you want to do is get into a fight about TV time. But, you never know what you and your child will create when pressed. What do they say the mother of invention is?!?

The Kennedy Center has a wealth of information on arts integration, which is off topic slightly but a good motivating read as to why being creative is important. Their focus is education, as in schools, but for a parent you can glean ways to enhance your (and your child’s) creativity at home.

Talking about getting out of our children’s creative ways, I have a confession to make. My daughter, who like most 4 year olds, is enamored with anything princess. One day she decided her hair wasn’t long enough so she took the skirt she was wearing, flipped it up onto her head, and wore it like long flowing pink hair. Perfect for the pink princess she is.

Now, she regularly puts on her hair before we go out. To the store. To school. To the playground. Anywhere. She wears this skirt hair. And I’m dying to tell her to take it off. And sometimes I do. But mostly I don’t.

But, I don’t because she wears it so much it’s a part of her now. I hardly even see it. Passers-by do, though, believe me. So, if you happen to see a mom walking around with a tiny pink-princes-nun-in-training, that’d be me. Fostering creativity.

What silliness can you envision doing, all in the name of creativity?

Previous Character Lessons: Patience, Humor, Hope, Love, Gratitude, Zest, Social Intelligence, Self Control, Grit.

photo credit: JD Hancock

Posted in: Parenting

Read more posts by


  • http://busykidshappymom.org busy kids=happy mom

    Excellent! Fostering creativity in our children is of utmost importance these days. Our culture has shifted to being able to obtain all information needed with a touch of a single button. Creativity in the arts, music, problem solving, etc is something that must be explored! All of our children have natural gifts and talents - let’s nurture them!

  • Penny W.

    I agree. My husband and I always said we’d encourage our kids if they wanted to go out wearing a superhero cape or a king’s crown or whatever. Encourage their creativity and sense of self. Turns out we didn’t have “dress-up” kids, but I do try to get them to make their own decisions, and find their own entertainments, and to be brave and not care too much what other people may think of them.

  • http://www.citybabyliving.com Emily (CityBabyLiving.com)

    Boredom…it’s a 4 letter word around my house. My 4.5 yo daughter can’t stand to be bored and I’m her #1 person to ask for entertainment help. I try my best to suggest a few things and step back. She eventually gets into something and I love to watch her work out relationships with her doll house or make an entire page of sticker art. When it comes to creating art, she has a drawer that she can do anything with - the messier (within reason) the better.

  • http://www.hippyfitmom.com HippFitMom

    I agree too. I don’t want to hender my children by cultivating them into what I or society thinks the should be or think. I want them to be creative and know that the sky is the limit.

  • Allison Stewart

    Treasure hunts for little ones are always fun and revealing. All you need is a container, a walk outside and a little one. You will be amazed at the things they pick up and the ideas they will conjure up with those things. It’s all about their unfettered imagination.

  • Hutch

    Hey, Kate, you know what they file in Pelican Courts, don’t you?

    Pelican Briefs. :)

  • kate

    @Hutch. Hee hee heee.

  • kate

    @HippFitMom. Yea! You go girl!

  • kate

    @Emily. You hit the nail on the head. I think boredom HAS become a 4 letter word in many households and yet it can be such a great motivator. If only we, as parents, could deal with all that fussiness that happens as kids work themselves out of it. To me, that’s the part that is so hard. Just standing back, not entertaining or trying to fix it really makes me uncomfortable. But when I do let my daughter figure it out, she’s so engrossed in what she finds to do.

  • kate

    @busy kids=happy mom. High five, sistah, high five.